YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL
by Dave Thompson
Here’s a book by someone who understands the importance of style over substance. It’s a dictum that quite evidently applies to the louche world author Dave Thompson inhabits with great skill as he unravels the links between Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy Stooge, and the colourful world the three of them portrayed.
In chronicling the longest decadent cocktail party in rock history, Thompson also weaves in a huge cast of vital characters — among them Andy Warhol, John Lennon, Wayne County and Mott the Hoople — and retells a familiar tale with new gusto, much affection and an admirable resolute refusal to camp up his prose.
Starting with an excellent essay on the birth of the Velvet Underground, the book keeps the reader intrigued, nailing the personalities of the protagonists to the great music on Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Raw Power and their groundbreaking ilk.
Faultless in its historical analysis, the book brings an era crashing back to life for those who were there, and still maintains enough reference to draw in the curious.
An erudite rock’n'roll read, this excellent book doesn’t so much strip its subject bare as put the clothes back on.”
– Max Bell
9 of 10 stars
Classic Rock magazine
Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and David Bowie are the subjects, but Andy Warhol, in a supporting role, steals the show. He is the mercurial, slightly malevolent Svengali who inspired the three stars’ “dangerous glitter” — the campy flirtation with drugs, theatricality and bisexuality that came to define glam rock. Warhol helped establish Reed’s group, the Velvet Underground, as the house band at Max’s Kansas City, a venue near Union Square that one scenester remembers as “the first really broad expression of homosexuality in New York City”; he befriended Iggy Pop early on in Ann Arbor, Mich.; and he conceived and lent his name to “Pork,” an extremely lewd London stage show that seems to have inspired Bowie to create his alter ego, the androgynous bandleader Ziggy Stardust. Thompson, an accomplished British music journalist, expertly teases out Warhol’s influence in the book’s opening stretch. After that, though, he does not explore the glam acts with enough rigor, lapsing instead into details about album production and management companies that have little apparent bearing on his central point. And he fails to pursue promising tangents: Thompson mentions that homosexuality was illegal in Britain until 1967, for example, but he omits what could have been a fruitful discussion of how Bowie challenged mores. The book is a triptych that makes you wonder why its author didn’t just produce three separate portraits.
New York Times, 26 Feb 2010
Thompson, Dave. Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell: The Dangerous Glitter of David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed. Backbeat: Hal Leonard. Nov. 2009. c.306p. photogs. discog. bibliog. ISBN 978-0-87930-985-5. pap. $19.99. MUSIC
Back in 1971, no one knew how just much music history would change when the lives of three musicians intersected. Rock journalist Thompson (Never Fade Away) brings forth a brilliantly written book that traces the careers of three of the most influential musicians of the last few decades: Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie. Within a few years of their meeting, the three turned the music world upside down by recording seminal masterpieces, adopting outrageous personas, and creating chaos wherever they went. With quick wit and a relaxed, conversational style, Thompson uncovers the friendship, talent, and influence of each musician and guides readers through the underground music scene of the 1960s and 1970s. From Ann Arbor, MI, to New York, London, and beyond, Thompson introduces us to the major players in punk music and the underground.
Verdict An essential book on the early history of Bowie, Pop, and Reed that fans and music buffs will devour.—Troy Reed, Southeast Regional Lib., Gilbert, AZ
London’s Burning: True Adventures On The Front Lines Of Punk 1976-1977
by Dave Thompson
A young punter’s-eye view of the punk warzone
By Dave Thompson
Chicago Review Press
London’s Burning by Dave Thompson is treading ground that has been trod many times before, the birth of punk: 1976-1977. As much as this might seem redundant, and the subtitle “TRUE ADVENTURES ON THE FRONTLINES OF PUNK” might seem a bit overdramatic, it does kind of embody Thompson’s approach to this time period, which is that of the anticipation and excitement of a young kid in a burgeoning new scene. It’s hard to read a punk memoir about this iconic era without an overwhelming sense of name-dropping, especially since Thompson is a well-known music journalist. However, Dave Thompson does cover these facets in his introduction and seems well aware of the baggage that comes with revisiting this subject.
The difference in London’s Burning is that Thompson watched the birth of punk through the mind of a wide-eyed teenager. One of my favorite passages is this, on page 78:
“You’re fifteen, sixteen years old, for Christ’s sake, which means you’re barely even human yet, just a walking talking piece of sponge, absorbing everything as though it’s the most exciting thing on earth, and then filtering out the dross when you pause to take a breath.
Patti Smith mattered to me because she was tearing down a sacred cow, and the Pistols were impressive because they then proceeded to slaughter it. Groups like Roogalator, the Feelgoods, the Rods, and the Heavy Metal Kids were important because they were so much fun, and the Ramones had an impact because they sounded like the best drugs were meant to make you feel.”
The sentiment here is what I like most about London’s Burning – the fact that Thompson as a teen does embody this spirit, embracing pub rock bands and indie icons alike. Each mattered for a specific reason, and that is totally indicated by his approach to this groundbreaking year, mentioning all of the bands that were important to him, not just the ones that sound cool. Not only does Thompson present himself as an excitable young kid, but most of the musicians involved with changing rock n’ roll forever are also illustrated as the curious, naïve, young kids that they were. This is appealing to me because honestly, who wants to hear about rock stars? I am more interested in the kids who started the scene regardless of the shitty response they got from the crowd, the kids who moved to London during one of the highest rates of unemployment in the city’s history, because they were just too stoked to start their own bands.
There definitely is some rock-idolatry, which is a little hard to swallow. On page 61 Thompson writes, “’Jesus, I’m twenty-one,’ Danny Kustow would despair at nights. ‘How can I ever become good enough to break into this music business, with all these great musicians like Pete Townshend and the like already before me?’” Granted, it’s understandable that younger kids in the 70’s would have stunted thoughts like this one, but that doesn’t make it any more digestible. This kind of sentiment can sometimes seem pretty dated.
Dave Thompson’s memoir of one very specific and influential year comes from the kind of attitude I like – unpretentious, appreciative, and real. Being a kid in punk should be exciting, and Thompson makes sure that the reader knows it started that way, too.
– Kate Wadkins
Dave Thompson is a name that should be recognizable to anyone infatuated by music, especially considering Thompson has been writing about music for more 25 years. In his most recent novel, “London’s Burning: True Adventures on the Front Lines of Punk, 1976-1977,” Thompson reveals a year of his young adult life.
The year focuses on his recollection of two memorable summers — he is only 16 when the book begins and 17 by the time the book ends.
The book opens with a cast of characters that ranges from popular punk musicians and journalists Alan Lee Shaw (of the Maniacs
and the Rings) and Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols) to Mick Farren (The Deviants/Underground Press). There are close to 50 characters in the memoir, but they are only mentioned as the background to Thompson’s experiences.
While there were many notable rock journalists during the 1970s that showcased much of the gritty nature of the music environment, Thompson, instead, shows fandom at its best. Throughout the novel, readers can visualize his love for music as he orients himself with not only live shows but also all of those involved in making the music happen.
The most important aspect he talks about throughout the book is his involvement in the music culture and how that introduced him to other fans as well as many popular musicians connected to punk — the Sex Pistols, Iron Maiden, Iggy Pop, David Bowie and the Velvet Underground. All of these experiences later lead him towards his profession as a music journalist and biographer.
Thompson portrays musicians as he saw them, and there is no better place to experience musicians and the punk scene during that time than England, which is where Thompson was raised.
The book also includes photography throughout, all credited to the rightful capturers, though many of the photos are taken from his
own collection. The design of the book also compliments the material by what appears to be a D.I.Y layout with pages that seem cut and pasted.
The reason why this book is true to the punk scene is because Thompson does not hold back — and, in researching Thompson, a reader can understand that his passion and criticism for music has continued to this day.
Though much of the material Thompson has written throughout the past 25 years has been positive viewpoints on music of his time, he has written books discussing why contemporary music does not carry the same clout. (See “I Hate New Music: The Classic Rock Manifesto” for more details.)
Thompson leaves readers knowing that by 1977 disco was officially dead and in only a matter of time the ’80s popularity of hair bands, metal, and rock ballads would take over.
However, Thompson’s true portrait of punk will continue to reinforce its lasting memory and influence in the world of music.
Rating: W W W W 1/2
Jan 2009: Eclectic Gypsy – An Unauthorised Biography of Dr Who, was reviewed here: http://www.sfrevu.com/php/Review-id.php?id=8452 Nov 2008: Some great coverage for I Hate New Music… check it out at the website of the same name! Black and White and Blue was included in AskMen.com’s (3,078,744 visitors/month) This Week’s Entertainment Picks for the week of September 24, 2007. They said, “Black and White and Blue does a very good job erecting a comprehensive document on mankind’s most hated/beloved subject.” Read the full review HERE(scroll down to “THIS WEEK’S BOOK PICK”).
Black and White and Blue was positively reviewed in the September 27, 2007 edition of the Tucson Citizen (circ. 25,987). Reviewer Larry Cox called the book, “highly readable” and gave it an A grade. The entire review can be read HERE.
Black and White and Blue was briefly reviewed in the September 20, 2007 edition of the Montreal Mirror (circ. 57,157). They said, “It’s like Boogie Nights for the cerebral.” The entire review can be read HERE(scroll down to “Is it art?”).
Dave Thompson was interviewed on WRIF’s “Drew and Mike Show” on September 25 at 11:30am ET. WRIF is a Detroit radio station.
Dave Thompson was interviewed on WMET’s “The Greaseman Show” on Monday, September 24 at 10:00am ET. WMET is a Washington D.C. radio station.
Black and White and Blue was positively reviewed in the September 19, 2007 issue of Philadelphia Weekly (circ. 127,000). Reviewer Brian McManus said, “you can sift through all the things that get your rocks off while getting a history lesson at the same time.” Read the entire review HERE
Dave Thompson is quoted extensively in a Vue Weekly (circ. 24,172) article about Black and White and Blue. Vue Weekly is an Edmonton, AB alternative weekly. Read the entire article HERE .
Black and White and Blue was positively reviewed on The A.V. Club Web site. Reviewer Noel Murray called the book, “enlightening, and entertaining.” Read the full review here
Black and White and Blue was positively reviewed on B-Scared.com, a website devoted to the underworld of cinema. Reviewer Grand Guignol wrote, “this book is fabulously researched and makes for stimulating reading . . . It is a serious but not stuffy look at erotic filmmaking’s history in America and abroad” and gives the book a rating of 4 1/2 stars out of 5. The entire review can be read HERE.
Playboy.com (1,880,921 visitors per month) has posted a very positive review of Black and White and Blue. Reviewer Sam Weller says, “cultural historians will delight in Thompson’s tale, and hardcore porn purists will finally learn what set the stage for Deep Throat.” The entire review can be read HERE.
The September 7 edition of The Naughty American included an article about Black and White and Blue. Dave Thompson was quoted throughout. The Naughty American (“TNA”) is a daily news and entertainment site that aims to publish compelling news and commentary by tapping into the zeitgeist of American popular culture and alternative news. The entire article can be read HERE.
Black and White and Blue has been positively reviewed on TCM Reviews, an online book review site. Reviewer Tristan Parrish wrote, “This book is an intriguing, well thought out, and excellent history of the stag film, from Victorian times to the late 1970s.” The entire review can be read HERE
Sex Web, a blog about sexuality written by two SexTV producers, includes an article about Black and White and Blue. Dave Thompson is quoted. Read the entire article HERE
Black and White and Blue has been positively reviwed by the nth Position website. Reviewer Tom Ruffles calls it “a stimulating and very readable account of a large number of films which whatever one thinks of them are an important part of our heritage.” Read the entire review HERE
Black and White and Blue has been positively reviewed in Big O (acronym for Before I Get Old), a Singapore-based rock magazine. Reviewer Philip Cheah says, “Thompson’s trail of sex film history is fascinating.” Read the entire review HERE(scroll down).
Dave Thompson was interviewed by Ginger Lynn and Christy Canyon on Playboy Radio’s “Night Calls” on Monday, September 10 at 7:30pm ET.
Black and White and Blue was featured in Publishers Weekly’s (circ. 23,253) July 9, 2007 cover story about erotica. The article included the cover image and editor Jennifer Hale is quoted.